I have been toying with writing a post on men and women for a while. I have written a couple of superficial posts like my 10 Things About Women and an overview of the near-perfect man. There is also a 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Men I posted on Facebook once, but I will have to edit and get it on this blog another time. Trust me, the 10 Things About Women is more important.
But, the men and women thing is a huge issue. I think I have a bit of insight into the crux of the problem, though. Just like everything else, we are creatures stuck in our own perceptions. We are biased and cannot change that fact. It is hard for men and women to appreciate the differences that are so important and identifying for each of us. These things are integral to who we are and having a person who approaches things from such a different vantage point can be both helpful and threatening. And as a general rule, people are always more defensive than open.
We are not wired to appreciate differences. Kids and teenagers want nothing more than to fit in (while standing out, of course). Religion is the ultimate club of likemindedness – very few religions pay any attention to the fact that they are all supposed to be focused on worshiping the very same God (Jew, Muslims, Christians [Catholic and Protestant], Mormons, I am talking to you) and focus on the differences in their understanding of how to worship that very same God – to historically disastrous consequences. We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents instead of Americans. Black, Hispanic and White instead of people. You get the idea so I don’t have to keep going through these, right?
Men and women are no different. If we praise something about one, then we must by default be attacking the lack of that very thing in the other. Women are good at multitasking – so men suck at home stuff. Men are stronger physically – so women are weak and incapable. And I am not even going to get into the argument about different approaches to accomplish the same goal. How many women out there have rolled their eyes or cringed when their husbands get into the kitchen or start dressing the kids? Even though at the end of it, the kid was fed, clean and clothed (ok, maybe not really clean and possibly a bit mismatched, but 2 outta 3 ain’t bad). And guys who have outright laughed if their wives pulled out the hammer and started banging on something? Even though in the end the damn picture – which had been sitting on the floor under the spot she wanted it hung for 3 weeks, btw – was hung (ok, so there were 3 teensy little nail holes hidden behind said picture because she was eyeballing it and it took a couple of tries to get it level). Yeah, we both do it. Equally.
Last night Jay and I were discussing gender roles (specifically as it relates to the workplace) and I was pointing out that my uterus (especially due to its current occupant) is an automatic hindrance to getting picked for a job, not to mention upward mobility in any chosen field. We were debating the veracity of this claim, the history leading to women coming out of the home and getting into the workplace and whether or not this is a positive or a negative. I said it is a net positive. The empowerment of women through the expanding ability to be self determining individuals independent of a man for support may have short term damage to home stability, true. But having the power to choose the lifestyle a woman wants for herself outside of financial or societal constraints is an over all gain for society in the long run.
Then he said something that stuck me – he said I get to have kids. Like “get” as in it is a privilege denied him physiologically. Uh? He pointed out that I get to be the mommy. Men don’t. They have work. They have careers. They have families, true, but regardless of whether or not mommy works, she is still the primary caregiver… she may also be the sole or primary bread winner, but even if she is not, she is still tops when it comes to the kids. Daddy may bring home the bacon and take care of the kids, too, but not like Mommy… and it is Mommy who is cried for when there is a hurt or a sickness, and she gets the “Hi, Mom!” on SportsCenter every flippin time.
Well, well, this was a bit of information that would have to be digested and ruminated upon.
I realized that my perception has been skewed and I have gotten used to the idea that my job is a liability for the stability of my children and my children are a liability for my job. Both making me feel that I do a shitty job all around. This has been my vantage point – the only thing I can see. I don’t know that I have ever thought of a man being envious of my child bearing ability. It is just another reason to be thought of as an unreliable and overly emotional woman.
So when Jay asked me again if I thought the change in family dynamics (from a 1950s breadwinner/homemaker model to a modern two income family with latch-key kids) was good for families as a whole, I had to stop and think. I am a woman. I cannot help but look at it from the perspective of that 1950s housewife as having no other option, being subservient and, in a staggering amount of cases at the mercy of a man, not too long back considered not much more than property. So my answer is a reluctant yes.
It is getting better. I think we are getting to a place where individual families consist of two equal partners who make a determination about their family values and priorities and set up their lifestyle accordingly. In some cases, it may follow a traditional breadwinner/homemaker model, some it is a two income full time jobs for both adults and appropriate arrangements are made for the kids, some it is a parent who works from home and another who goes out into the workplace…and then there are all kinds of single parental options that include divorced parenting and extended families coming together for the betterment of families in general.
I think that we are breaking those old molds and creating a workplace and a society where family doesn’t come second to job duties and work is more than just a paycheck to feed the kids. Just like the medical field, we are finding that we have to look at individuals as whole beings, not just merely the sum of parts.
This excites me. It makes me start thinking in terms of possibility and playing to our strengths. If we could learn to do that and work together, there is nothing we could not accomplish. The question is how to do that. And like everything else, you start small and local. You start at home. You have to find your very own Sweet Spot.